Constant power cuts weighed on the manufacturing sector. Moreover, the volume of incoming new work increased at the slowest pace in 16 months and export orders expanded at the slowest pace in seven months
The country’s manufacturing sector witnessed the slowest rate of expansion in 16 months in March as power outages hampered production activity and decline in new business orders, according to observations made by an HSBC survey.
The HSBC India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)—a measure of factory production—stood at 52 in March down from 54.2 in February.
Constant power cuts weighed on the manufacturing sector. Moreover, the volume of incoming new work increased at the slowest pace in 16 months and export orders expanded at the slowest pace in seven months, HSBC said.
Though the index has remained above the 50 mark, below which it indicates contraction, for more than three years now.
The PMI reading for March showed that manufacturing operating conditions in the country has improved at slowest rate since November 2011.
“Manufacturing activity lost momentum in March, with output growth slowing notably on the back of a deceleration in new orders and power outages,” HSBC chief economist for India & ASEAN Leif Eskesen said.
India’s current account deficit hit a record 6.7% of GDP in December quarter to $32 billion on account of surge in oil and gold imports, besides weak exports, according to data released last week.
Eskesen further noted that output could get a lift in coming months as inventories are replenished. Inventories of finished goods were depleted to meet demand, partly due to the output disruptions caused by power cuts.
Meanwhile, HSBC said even as input as well as output prices increased at a moderate pace during March, the scope for further monetary policy easing remains ‘limited’.
“Encouragingly, input and output price inflation eased.
“Even so, the scope for further monetary policy easing remains limited,” Eskesen said.
Redressal of consumer complaints can entail approaching the insurance ombudsman, the consumer courts and even taking help of social media, RTI and police complaints. There are options available today to build pressure on errant service or goods providers so that they do the needful
A letter from Mohan Siroya, chairperson of the Consumer Complaints Cell, gives three examples of consumer power success using the help of the insurance ombudsman, Right to Information (RTI), social media activism and police complaints. Today, justice will be served if you are persistent in your efforts to pursue the errant service or goods provider. A consumer court may not be able to help in the absence of the postal address, but alternate means exists.
Case 1: A senior citizen was hospitalized in Seven Hills Hospital, Mumbai. New India Assurance Company refused to pay the claim of Rs12,148 submitted in August 2010. It argued about the lack of the original hospital bill/receipt, even though the insured provided documentary proof of having submitted the same. The insurer wrote a letter to the hospital asking for certain documents, including the hospital bill. It was but natural for the hospital to write the word ‘Duplicate’ on the bill as the original was already issued at the time of discharge. The insurer refused to accept this and declined to reimburse the claimed amount.
In the complaint to the insurance ombudsman, there was a claim of not only the claim amount but also‘compensation’ for undue delay in not settling/refusing to settle the claim on a flimsy or false ground and deliberate “mental torture” caused to a senior citizen. The ombudsman passed an award granting not only of the claimed amount, but also a penalty of Rs2,000, directly favouring the complainant in settlement within three working days, failing which a fine of Rs500 would be payable by the company for each day of delay. Usually, the ombudsman does not levy penalty, but it did in this case on the insurance company for wrongful delay and refusal.
Case 2: A consumer had purchased two heaters, which were offered cheap on the Deal92.com website as an online transaction. The online payment was made through a credit card. When the consumer received the ordered goods they were found in broken and in non-usable condition. The consumer protested on the only ‘email’ address available demanding either the replacement of goods or refund of entire paid amount. There was no response even after reminders. The National Consumer Helpline was unable to take the complaint for redressal in absence of any postal address of Deal92.com. Mr Siroya took recourse of putting this complaint on social networking websites. That defiled their name and potential customers were cautioned. The aggrieved consumer was also advised to raise a formal dispute to deny the payment made to the online merchant and treat it as a fraudulent transaction. This was done and a temporary credit was given in his account. This was further refurbished, when a complaint was filed with the cyber cell regarding this online fraud and praying to ban the seller’s website. That made Deal92.com to act. They refunded the entire amount to the same credit card account.
Case 3: As a consumer activist, Mohan Siroya had filed a case at the MIDC police station for having received a threat on his mobile in May 2010, “threatening me to stop lodging complaints against the companies for Consumer Cause and Protection”. This particular case he was referring for the company “Fedders Lloyd” against which a complaint was sent by him to the then Union minister for civil supplies and consumer protection, Sharad Pawar. Another non-cognisable (NC) complaint was filed by him in the MIDC police station against a firm called “Modern Tech Services” for having failed to give the contracted service for second year of the contract. Mr Siroya tried to contact the firm’s office and proprietor but all the listed phones were not working/not in existence. A written notice was sent by Mr Siroya to the postal address printed in the contract/letter head. It transpired that now in that premises some other business, by some other party, was carried out. Mr Siroya filed a complaint of cheating and fraud for having failed to give the contracted service or refund of 50% of paid amount against the firm, whose address was now ‘Unknown’.
The police was requested to find out the person in whose account the cheque/ money was paid and his whereabouts. Mr Siroya made an application under RTI to know the progress. It came in mere two words “Under Investigation”. He then appealed to the First Appellate Authority (FAA) for specific “status/progress” of investigations made, besides complaint of delay in providing information. The FAA also simply ordered “As earlier informed Under Investigation”. The order reached Mr Siroya beyond 45 days of appeal date, thus another violation of the Act without giving any reasons for delay.
Mr Siroya went in for a second appeal to the SCIC (State Chief Information Commissioner), who within five months, heard his appeal. On the eve of hearing date, a police constable personally came to his home to deliver a letter that said, “In first NC, the police filed a case against one Mr Gupta under Section 504, 506 of IPC.” The second NC complaint against Modern Tech Services was of civil nature and I should go to the civil/consumer court,” Mr Siroya said.
In the hearing, the SCIC upheld delays under the Act and also for suppressing the available investigation progress/report on record. The Authority also agreed with the interpretation that in absence of a party whose whereabouts are unknown, is covered under ‘Fraud’ and thus the police is supposed to take cognisance of the same.
The SCIC further gave two specific directions—to summon the SPIO (State Public Information Officer) in person to explain “Why penalty under Section19 (8) (g) and Section 20 (1) should not be levied on him”, failing which orders will be passed under Section 20 (2)”. “Another landmark relief for me was that the concerned offices should furnish me an opportunity to inspect the information so far available on record on all such files free of charge. After two days, police started investigating about the address of the payee through the banking channels,” Mr Siroya stated.
The police machinery worked overtime, gave Mr Siroya updated information in both the cases, one through the CBI, as Fedders Lloyd Co was from Delhi. The other one they traced through the banking channel in Mumbai and made him to refund Rs1,000 in cash.
This is with regard to “Government says it has not issued any guidelines on CSR spending yet”. Commonly, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ (CSR) is understood as another name for charity. The government’s and corporates’ hesitant approach to CSR can turn out to be harmful to the country and, in the process, to corporates. Those who are lucky to govern and manage resources, which ultimately belong to the society, should take on themselves the responsibility to eradicate hunger and poverty, provide shelter and potable water, promote literacy at least to the school level, ensure reasonably affordable healthcare.
‘Inflation Ka Injection'
This is with regard to “Does AMFI’s advertisement on mutual funds pass the test of ethics?” by Vivek Sharma. You seem to be confused Mr Sharma. Investing is all about foregoing consumption now so that you have the ability to consume more at a later date. By your own admission, you say “mutual fund is a great investment product.” Will you call an investment ‘great’ if it is incapable of beating inflation? Thus, there is nothing misleading about mutual funds being ‘Inflation ka Injection’.
This is with regard to “Shailesh Gandhi files second appeal to get info about under-trials in Maharashtra prisons”. Shailesh Gandhi has hit the nucleus of the judicial deficiency which requires immediate reforms. I have witnessed the condition of some of the poor and helpless under-trials who come to court on remand but do not have anyone to guide them or represent them; nor are they are in a position to say anything and cannot even pay the bail amount. In one case, I have seen a poor father losing his mental balance and was screaming and crying in the court premises. The police and the public and all those in black coats standing outside the courts looking for customers were watching the scene. There is a need for judicial reforms. There is a need to strengthen the Advocates Act and there is a need for severe punishment for professional misconduct in advocacy.
This is with regard to “Finance ministry withdraws its controversial diktat to levy processing fees on payment of credit card dues by cheque or cash” by Sucheta Dalal. Excellent work, Ms Dalal, Mr Basu and all at Moneylife.
Congrats to the Moneylife team for getting consumers the right they deserve. Certainly Reserve Bank of India (RBI) does not know what it is doing. Just recently, RBI insisted on a new format (CTS-2010) for cheques. So we would have had banks sitting with an inventory of pre-printed chequebooks and customers who would have paid for them but cannot use them because of the heavy charges.
Brilliant Book Review
The review of Anuj Dhar’s book on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was brilliant, indeed. It is chilling to think that the political machinations to curb freedom of speech and expression were as rampant in pre-independence days as they are now. It is also intriguing that the Congress as well as the BJP governments maintained a stoic silence on the matter. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose made a significant contribution to India’s freedom movement, though he may not have toed the lines of Nehru and Gandhi. The book leads to a strong suspicion that news of Netaji’s death was politically motivated.
But the question that continues to intrigue and perplex us is: If Netaji was, indeed, Bhagwanji, what made him shy away from public glare? Why did he prefer to die unsung? Did he ever attempt to make any contact with his family during his days of obscurity? No one knows. I doubt if the truth will ever come out in the open as the government tries to push matters under the carpet.
Mr Balakrishnan’s article about his travails with L&T–Arun Excello project was a real eye-opener. The statements made by him (‘never trust a builder, it is better to buy a small home in a good area than buy a palace in a desert, go for a ready-to-occupy flat even if it is a second investment’) need to be engraved in gold. L&T–Arun Excello was in trouble; there were reports of dues that remained unpaid to their contractors two years ago. The de-merger of this joint venture raises a prominent question: Does L&T have no accountability at all to a purchaser who invested money in the property relying on their brand equity? Maybe they do not have any, as per the current legal framework in India. But, as Mr Balakrishnan so succinctly puts it, caveat emptor rings true especially in the real-estate sector where rules of corporate governance and code of conduct, transparency in accounts and cash dealings are, at best, confined to the dustbin.
One of my colleagues invested in a real estate project in Chennai in 1997; he is yet to get possession of his flat. It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to investment in real estate. I also have a suggestion: if anyone is buying a second home as an investment, he should opt for a bank loan for a small portion of the capital. As an additional safety measure, he should also engage the services of a professional legal consultant. These safeguards might mitigate the risks, to some extent.
G Venkatesh, by email
Cost of Data In Government
The central processing cell (CPC) of the Income Tax Department issues orders/notices, based on the information available in its database. Unfortunately, CPC does not entertain any clarification or explanation directly but insists that the assessee approach the concerned ITO for the purpose. Unless the ITO is able to modify or correct the database on the basis of the explanation/clarification given, in a time-bound manner, the database will continue to carry the anomaly. The purpose of computerisation to benefit the common man is, thus, defeated. As it is, the ITOs complain of heavy workload, and to expect that they will be able to process the clarification/explanation and modify/correct the database speedily is not realistic. It is when a person is made to suffer for no fault of his that a feeling of being harassed arises. One starts to wonder whether being honest is worth it. Not a single government department will admit that it has made a mistake in data-entry and it is the person concerned who will have to run around to get the corrections done.
When the PAN card was introduced, it was said that the card will serve as ID proof for all purposes. Thereafter, SEBI introduced MAPIN as ID proof for all capital market activities. Not to be left behind, mutual funds (MFs) introduced MIN for investment in MFs. Voter’s card, ration card (more for address proof than for any other purpose) have not lagged behind. Now, it is Aadhaar, but it does not end there. There is National Population Register as well. Such a lot of data has been collected, and whether any new ID proofs will be imposed is not known. Who takes the responsibility for the waste of time and money? Or do we take solace in the thought that these activities have provided employment to many and contributed to the development of the economy (at whose cost?).
Venu Menon, by email
This is with regard to “Unreal Estate” by R Balakrishnan in Moneylife (7 March 2013). I am from Hyderabad and a software consultant by profession.
I was planning to buy a flat as an investment; so, I read the article at the right time. It is an eye-opener since it clarified myths, especially on buying flats in incomplete projects. The rules of the game enunciated in the article clearly set the direction for my next investment in a flat. Thanks for sharing your ‘real’ experience. I am sure many readers like me would get the clarity required for such investment.
I have been a reader of Moneylife for a couple of years and now it has become part of my financial life to seek any advice and clarity before I decide on anything.
Devi Prasad, by email
Government Forcing Aadhar?
This is with regard to “Government forcing down Aadhaar by threatening exclusion from benefits, services?” published on www.moneylife.in on 29th January. I entirely agree with Major General SG Vombatkere. I would also like to know why UID enrolment is linked with services and benefits. Since I am an ordinary man (senior citizen), I thought I should obtain the Aadhaar card without which my very survival may be made difficult by denying me benefits and services in this country, where I was born and have lived peacefully for 78 years.
I have been trying for the past three/four months for enrolment but failed for want of proper arrangements. I visited two Aadhaar centres, one at Lokhandwala Firengee Market and the other at Oriental Bank of Commerce at Oshiwara (both in suburban Mumbai). At the first centre, I found a long queue on two occasions and the in-charge’s attitude was whimsical towards senior citizens in not allotting the number. At the second centre, the in-charge was absent when I went on 20 December 2012 and one of the bank employees informed me that the centre had been closed even though it was to be closed only on 31 December 2012.
My experience shows that enrolment in Aadhaar is not as easy as it is claimed, especially for old/ older/ sick persons. I had sent emails explaining the difficulties to the deputy director general, UID (Mumbai Area) and also to the chief, Nandan Nilekani. They seem to have not given any attention to the problems faced by the citizens, whereas the government is insisting on UID for everything. I had also suggested that the Aadhaar team should be deputed to the various housing cooperative societies. Will the authorities look into the matter and take necessary action?
VS Venkataraman, by email